The Liberal-National Party government announced a swathe of new job cuts on September 7 before its first budget on September 11. Queensland Health has been the latest victim, with 2700 jobs set to be dusted.
This has again outed Premier Campbell Newman as a fraud and cheat. His previous claims that regional centres would not bear the brunt of his public sector pruning and that front line services would be off limits have been rendered meaningless.
The September 3 Townsville Bulletin said the city had suffered 550 job losses since Newman came to power.
“Together Townsville organiser Billy Colless said the union's estimate of job losses had gone up by 100 in the past month. 'That's $24 million in cuts from the local services and the community,' he said.”
The next day, the state government said a further 131 positions would go, including 45 positions from the nursing division across the Townsville Hospital and Health Service.
Services affected include the Townsville Hospital, community health services, nursing homes, rehabilitation services, tertiary and training services, metal health units and several health centres.
The Townsville Hospital is the tertiary referral, acute care hospital for the northern zone of Queensland Health.
A further 70 job cuts were hinted at for the next round, bringing the total public service jobs lost in the Townsville area to 750.
Health minister Lawrence Springborg announced the latest cuts to Queensland Health statewide on September 7. The major restructure would include 1537 job losses across regional services and 1217 corporate positions.
The LNP government has sought to deflect attention by providing area boards with a budget target and off-loading responsibility for how funds are allocated. One likely result will be the loss of permanent positions, to be replaced by outsourced and contract staff.
This will inevitably impact on the quality of clinical service provision. Queensland Australian Medical Association president Alex Markwell has expressed grave concerns about the impact these cuts will have on patient care.
The day after the Townsville health and hospital board announced the cuts in that area, members of the Queensland Nurses Union and the Services Union rallied in protest outside Townsville Hospital. Unions have signalled stepping up the campaign in response to the budget.
Newman has made several conflicting statements when questioned by the media. He has claimed that job cuts will be closer to 15,000, not the originally stated 20,000, but also that the public service will grow after this year.
Recent legal changes now make it easier to sack public servants and undermine enterprise agreements, so any public sector growth will involve replacing permanent job with contract staff on lower wages and conditions.
Newman had also hinted that the budget would focus on raising revenue with higher royalties and payroll tax. The resources boom bubble is now bursting and unemployment is on the rise, so the excuse it is a “fiscal necessity” to cut spending will not go away.
The LNP has also flagged plans to sell off historic government buildings to private developers to fund the construction of a new administration building.
Further privatisations are on the agenda, including the privatisation of state-owned electricity distributors Ergon Energy (regional Queensland) and Energex (south east Queensland).
Job losses to date are difficult to gauge but could have already reached 12,000 to 15,000. Even before the budget, the impact on services has been felt in the community.
Facebook posts to Newman and online comments on news articles show families of people with disabilities, women who use services such as Breast Screen and Family Planning, tenants in public housing and private rental, and people in regional and remote areas of the state are particularly impacted.
Out-of-touch new LNP MP Robert Cavallucci told inner-Brisbane magazine Village News that the “culture of 'unless the government pays for it, a service won't be provided in the community' is unsustainable”.
Yet a phone poll conducted recently found 59% of respondents felt job cuts had gone too far and more than half were less likely to vote LNP.
The LNP government attacks on public and community services have been widespread covering all parts of the state, most government departments, and hundreds of non-government organisations funded mainly by the Department of Health and the Department of Community Services.
Many families will have been affected in some way. There have been responses, protests and campaigns launched at local and regional level, as well as large protests of thousands of people in Brisbane.
Unions so far have taken limited, protected action within bargaining periods. There does not seem to be a reluctance of workers to take action. However, union peak bodies are yet to coordinate concerted cross-union industrial action.
The Queensland Council of Unions’ “Stand for Queensland” campaign has called a statewide day of action on September 12, the day after the budget is handed down. The action, which had been endorsed by a statewide cross-union delegates meeting, is taking the form of community rallies, not industrial action.
There is potential for a campaign to combine industrial action with community organising to roll back the attacks on services and jobs.
This is the perspective of the community based group, Queensland Uncut, which has endorsed the September 12 rallies and worked on the ground to build them. Queensland Uncut held a 2000-strong march on August 23 through the Brisbane CBD to Parliament House and has planned a further action for September 22.
But to limit the campaign to protected industrial action during bargaining periods, and focus on the re-election of the ALP to government is not a winning strategy. The former privatising ALP government is still on the nose.
The LNP will have done the damage by the end of the first term. The jobs and services are being slashed now. The fightback needs to be directed at the government now.